Drop In Ranking? Expected!!

Reporters Without Borders released their Press Freedom Index 2010 HERE which revealed that Malaysia has plunged 10 notches to 141 – notably the lowest in nine years. This means that Malaysia is in the bottom quarter of 178 countries in the list.

Believe it or not – last year, the ranking for Malaysia improved from 132 to 131 so this development does not give a positive picture of press freedom in our country.

CLICK HERE to see the rankings for ASEAN countries.

So what caused this dramatic slide? Obviously, it could probably be a combination of a few events including:

  • Malaysian Communication and Multimedia Commission’s investigation into Malaysiakini’s cow-head video
  • the arrests of a few bloggers
  • the ban on a number of books by cartoonist Zunar
  • the action taken wrt Kim Quek and his book “The March to Putrajaya”
  • recent news that social networking sites will be monitored
  • the recent sacking of media personnel in a tv station and a radio station
  • and many other reasons

I am sure the ranking would have been lower if they had taken into consideration the following incident reported HERE by The Malaysian Insider which said:

A number of reporters from news portals were booted from the media room of the Umno general assembly today for not possessing press passes issued by the party’s secretariat.

“Unfortunately, Umno that is led by Datuk Seri Najib Razak does not hold on to the principles that they espouse and this has been proven by their actions of kicking the Malaysiakini reporters out of the media room of the Umno general assembly,” NUJ Malaysia president Hata Wahari said in a statement today.

“Umno’s action shows its attitude of not being media-friendly which is not in line with the speech made by Umno president Datuk Seri Najib Razak – who said that the media plays an important role in destroying extremism globally – during the closing of the international forum on The Creation of Global Citizen: Media Liberalisation And the New Political Realities yesterday,” he added.

Obviously, when things are in a muddled mess, the muzzle is clamped on those who have privy to soap boxes. Such moves can be seen as measures to stifle press freedom and as furtive attempts to force the media’s hand to comply with their requirements and standards.

Ideally, in any country that supposedly practises democracy, there should be freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Democracy in the mass media should empower the press to practise mature journalistic principles to produce reports that inform citizens about current events!!

The public are the customers of the mainstream media so the latter should be accountable to the public in creating the democratic expression of truth of the events as seen in the society. Is this the case in Malaysia?

Any news blackout in any democratic country indirectly shows the increased domination of that government over the mass media and the shrinking freedom of expression in that country. Some authorities may speak so much about reforming the mass media, establishing certain organizations and strengthening public service broadcasting. However if and when they do just the opposite, then the ones to suffer are the masses.